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C18th men's jacket with couched chenille  Brunswick quilted jacketQuilted gown c1775Wiastcoat, bizarre pattern

Treasures From the Collection

Visit to Platt Hall

Fri 4th March 2011

Gallery of Costume
Platt Hall, Manchester



The Platt Hall Gallery of Costume reopened in March 2010 after a £1.3 million renovation project. The Museum is not large, but the costumes are so superbly displayed, one could spend an entire day in each gallery. The Collection is second only to the V&A, containing over 20,000 fashion items from the 17th century onwards.

Miles Lambert, the Senior Manager, had kindly set out a comprehensive display of costume items in one of the research rooms. These featured 18th century treasures from the Museum Collection, the theme being Decorative Finishes and Unusual Items.

Children's costume and pockets

A selection of children’s costumes showed how even small infants were dressed as adults, with stiffened corset bodices, though with the addition of ‘leading strings’ attached to the shoulders to allow adult supervision. Even more intriguing was the collection of separate ‘pockets’ worn beneath the over-skirt, petticoat or apron. These ranged from plain linen with tie-on strings to beautifully embroidered ones, singly or in pairs. No wonder Lucy Locket was so upset when she ‘lost her pocket’.

Decorative Items

Decorative items included a man’s waistcoat with a ‘bizarre’ pattern woven into the fabric and beautifully embroidered buttons. A floral waistcoat was worked in couched chenille thread to give a padded effect with Bullion knots forming the flower centres. A cream striped silk wedding dress had an intricate edging of looped braid and ribbon that must have taken weeks to sew in place. A dress in dark printed pattern from the 1830's was joined along the bodice seams - had they run out of material or just being careful?

Star items

I was pleased to see a Brunswick Jacket in quilted silk complete with hood on a display stand. This informal jacket, normally worn with a matching petticoat and originally adapted from working class costume, was popular in the late 18th century. The ‘star’ of the show must be given to the superb 1770 woman’s costume, similar to one drawn by Janet Arnold in her ‘Patterns of Fashion c1660 - 1860'. The fitted bodice with scooped neckline has front tabs over the quilted silk petticoat, slightly longer than the gathered overskirt.

Report by Angela Thompson

All images from the collection of Platt Hall. Copyright Angela Thompson